Canadian poet, novelist, and critic Margaret Eleanor Atwood is a widely recognized literary figure known for her bold explorations into the depths of the human consciousness especially from the feminist perspective. Her novels, including Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale are widely known for their feminist subject matter, and one finds the same powerful themes within her poetry. Her poem “Spelling,” for example, is a tribute to the power of words and it depicts ‘the victimization and powerlessness of women without language.’ A woman’s search for identity and her struggle against male oppression is definitely a dominant theme in Atwood’s writings. At the same time she constantly explores Canada’s search for an identity of its own and its constant fight against the English and American colonizing influences.
Margaret Atwood the second of three children was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, to parents from Nova Scotia origin. Her father was a forest entomologist. Part of her early years Atwood spent exploring Canada’s rough country along with her father in northern Quebec which explains her fascination with the Canadian wilderness. In 1946 Atwood’s family moved to Toronto. She was eleven before she attended school full-time. Atwood graduated from Leaside High School in 1959. She then studied at the University of Toronto where she met and was influenced by Northrop Fry’s myth criticism and Jungian ideas. She won a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and became a graduate student at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, receiving her M.A. in 1962. Atwood continued her studies of Victorian literature at Harvard but left the program before completing her Ph.D. She worked for a market-research company in Toronto and taught English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (1964-65). She has held a variety of academic posts and has been writer-in-residence at numerous Canadian and American universities.
As a writer Atwood made her debut at the age of nineteen with Double Persephone (1961), a collection of poems. Numerous collections of poems, novels, essays have made Atwood one of the most prolific writers on the Canadian literary scene. Her themes are thought provoking, controversial and bold. Among her well known works are her novels Alias Grace, Surfacing The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale; her controversial critical studies Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature and Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature. Her works include Collections of Poems and short stories as well as numerous essays on various topics.
After two unsettling engagements and a marriage that lasted just five years, Atwood finally settled down with the Canadian writer Graeme Gibson in 1973. Having lived at various places in the world Atwood has established her permanent residence in Toronto and has a daughter Jess Atwood Gibson.